With just over a month until kick off in the 2021 interstate contest, it’s officially time to start talking Origin!

Origin Watch returns, with weekly discussion covering both the Blues and Maroons.

In the first 2021 edition we look at the position that caused the most discussion heading into and coming out of the 2020 series; the centres.

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Let us know below who you believe will/should run out for New South Wales come Origin One.

The Incumbents

Last year the Blues were able to name the same centre pairing to start all three games. An injury in Game III would break up the pairing, however the same two ran out for all three games despite questions heading into the decider.

Clint Gutherson: The King made his Origin debut in the centres last year to a mixed bag. His best performance came in Origin III when a Tedesco injury meant he returned to his week-to-week position at fullback.

He provided two try assists for Addo-Carr but was absolutely bodied by the out of position Capewell to concede a try. In game two he was quiet with just the 10 runs for 54 metres. There’s no doubt Gutherson earned an Origin spot but he was outplayed by a second-rower in Game I and looked out of position.

Jack Wighton: The Dally M Player of the Year simply had to be in the side somewhere after a monster 2020 season. That said, he was pretty dire in Game I, missing an awful attempted tackle to allow Gagai to run straight through, which lead to a try.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 27: (L-R) Payne Haas, Nick Cotric, Cody Walker, Cameron Murray and Jack Wighton pose during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin media opportunity at North Bondi Surf Club on May 27, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

He was much better in the Blues big Game II win, crossing for a try and causing plenty of worries out wide. He tore Gagai apart in scoring. Again he was found out in Game III and was outplayed by Brenko Lee.

I feel as though his Origin future has to be in the six. That said, he was very strong once named at centres in the 2019 series. His Game II effort was huge.

Watch as the Rugby League Outlaws preview the upcoming round (@LeagueOutlaws)

The Challengers

If the Blues opt for a change to last years setup, the below two players are the two I see as the most likely to come in and both have played Origin previously.

Latrell Mitchell: Once regarded as the best centre in the game, Latrell has become a superstar fullback. Injured for last year’s end of season series, the Blues really could have used the Bunnies star.

You only need to look at the break he made which assisted the match winner in 2019’s Grand Final to see how dangerous he can be. Sometimes Mitchell can be quiet in big games, however his explosive speed and power can win a match at any given moment.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JULY 05: Latrell Mitchell looks on during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin training session at NSWRL Centre of Excellence Field on July 5, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The only question is whether or not he can move back into the centres after two seasons training in the fullback role.

Tom Trbojevic: As absolute certainty to return to the Origin arena if fit. Turbo has been the difference in Origin games at centre and will be the first player picked should his troublesome hammys hold up.

Few will forget the clinic he put on in Game II in 2019 in the pouring rain in Perth. He was the most dangerous player on the field, scoring three times in the crushing victory. If Turbo if fit, then there’s only one Origin spot to play for.

The only potential issue is he’s so good he can fill in on the wing or at fullback too. For mine though, he’s there regardless of the number on his back.

The Wild Cards

If the Blues want to name a debutant and specialist centre, which none of the above four players are, the three youngsters below are those I see in the conversation.

Stephen Crichton: Arguably the best centre in the competition in 2020, young Crichton was rumoured to be in the running for a late series debut before being ruled out through injury.

Truthfully I believe Papenhuyzen was more likely to debut but if the Blues want a specialist centre who can blow the game open at any time, Crichton may be their man. Defensively he has very rarely lost a battle since returning to his favoured role and has breathed fire for the Panthers. If there is a debut for a young centre, I can’t see it being anyone other than Crichton.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 08: Stephen Crichton of the Panthers celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round 13 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Panthers Stadium on August 08, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Bradman Best: If the Blues want a power runner with explosive power, Bradman Best’s name will surely come up. I can’t see him being named over Turbo or Latrell, but if Trbojevic is required to play fullback, then Best can do the job on Gagai.

He has game winning efforts to his name already in 2021 despite an injury lay off. One to watch for the future but he’s an option if injuries strike the more experienced options.

Zac Lomax: Injury may rule out Lomax for Origin I but his name will come up later in the series if required. He was named in the squad for the 2020 series and really should have made his debut in Game III given the dominance by the Queenslanders out wide.

A fantastic young player with Origin in his future. Whether or not it is in 2021 looks unlikely, however I’d be surprised if he’s not in the squad somewhere given his talents and massive future.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 01: Zac Lomax of the Dragons makes a break during the round 24 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Wests Tigers at Sydney Cricket Ground on September 01, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Let us know below who you believe will be running out for the Blues come Game I.